[78-L] Recording Quality - a relative term

Rodger Holtin rjh334578 at gmail.com.invalid
Tue Jul 1 20:02:59 PDT 2014

Just as I assumed, you guys have validated my suspicion - Recording Quality
has not improved beyond its near-perfect state in 50 years, and the art of
the techniques involved have deteriorated.  The stories about the mumbling
actors and the modern practice of recording individual musicians and mixing
the signals to sound as if they were playing together really told it all.
The "engineers" and the "artists" alike seem to have the attitude I've seen
displayed by those running sound jobs, too - "the software will fix it."
Wishful thinking, methinks.

Thanks to all who responded.


For best results use Victor Needles

-----Original Message-----
From: 78-l-bounces at klickitat.78online.com
[mailto:78-l-bounces at klickitat.78online.com] On Behalf Of Mark Bardenwerper
Sent: Sunday, June 29, 2014 5:13 PM
To: 78-L Mail List
Subject: Re: [78-L] Recording Quality - a relative term

On 6/29/2014 11:04 AM, Ron L'Herault wrote:
> I don't know if quality has improved but I think the overall result 
> has gone downhill.  Recording each musician/instrument independently 
> and then mixing them in at the end gives a one-dimensional sound image 
> to these ears.  I find it all most impossible to hear and understand 
> modern vocalists because they are lost in the sonic plane.  First off, 
> you don't hear the interplay of the instrumental sounds as they were 
> created.  And then you don't have the depth.  If you close your eyes 
> it seems like there is a line of sound in front of you, everything mashed
together, including the singer, just another
> sound in the jumble.   Even old mono recordings had a sense of depth.  You
> could kind of feel the singer was in front of the band, and I am 
> convinced that you get a feeling for where instruments were place in 
> relation to the singer on an early mono recording (30s)  Was it just 
> the time delay?  Once stereo got over the "ping pong" era, one could 
> easily spatially and sonically place instruments and singers in a 
> group recording as you hear it played back.  There was definition and 
> separation for a while, and not just the side-to-side separation you'd 
> expect.  It was a separation between musicians/singers.
> Ron L
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
> Owing to many bouts of ear infections, advancing age and years of 
> surface noise (Goodyear : asphalt/concrete while on the clock and diamond
> shellac/vinyl in my off-hours) I'm no longer the golden ear of my 
> youth, so I must rely on other experts, or reputable opinions of some 
> kind.  (So why am I daring this subject here, anyway??)
> It seems to me that the overall quality of recording topped out a long 
> time ago, and all the improvements I've seen since starting in radio 
> and recording studios in 1970 seems like so much chasing after 
> ever-diminishing returns.  Tape was easier than disc, but as Dr. Biel 
> has pointed out numerous time, not better than the existing disc method
then in place.
> Digital has certainly made it all easier to use, much easier than 
> tape, to be sure, but I don't think anybody really argues that the 
> quality was improved over what we could get on tape.  OK, so there's 
> still some surface/carrier advantage in digital over tape, or disc, 
> but I understand that even digital carries its own noise.  I know 
> that's true when it gets over-processed, but prior to processing does
digital have its own noise?
> Microphones, mixers, speakers, headphones and all that other stuff has 
> become smaller, but I'm not buying that it's all that much better in 
> terms of audio quality that makes any difference to the hearer.  Maybe 
> it's more reliable, and lightweight, but better?  Maybe the machinery 
> can show us some graphic display of improvement in ranges well beyond 
> what we can hear, but can we hear any improvement?
> So what's the real answer, or the majority opinion here?  Is recording 
> quality still improving?  Has it maxed out?  If so, when?
> Rodger

I also suffer from hearing loss. The squeal of tinnitus has haunted me for
some years due to long hours around factories and tools of all sorts. I was
raised around high fidelity. My father, who is still alive, possesses a very
large classical 33 rpm collection and an old school system to drool over.
Sadly his hearing is almost done.

For me, the climax of recording quality was the quad era or perhaps just a
bit before. There were examples of course of real junk. A lot of pop music
was never intended to be heard critically and was sonically designed to work
within the narrow spectrum of AM broadcast. Examples of these extremes would
be early Spirit stuff produced by Lou Adler. On the other hand you have the
wonderful work of the Abbey Road studios. Yet another would be early vs late
Pink Floyd.

I fear I cannot intelligently speak to the classical genre, but pin drop
accuracy was commonplace to the point of being the norm. My father would
have surely attested to that.

The quad era also forced stylus and cartridge technology to its peak. Of
course, in the middle were the great amps, and at the other, the plethora of
speakers available. I always considered Marantz amps to be sonically honest,
Sansui to be the opposite.

Nowadays, there is no demand for such precision, what with speakers and amps
having to fit your pocket. Case in point, the demise of "high fi" 
stores such as Flanner and Hafsoos in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mark L. Bardenwerper, Sr.

Technology...thoughtfully, responsibly.

Visit me at http://citroen.cappyfabrics.com

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